Inspired by Smorgasbord’s recent blog on Hinduism, I want to add my two cents worth. Religion has been a topic of discussion ever since I learnt the art of thinking. I can remember umpteen nights we spent on discourses (rather, discussions with no end in sight) on Hinduism and its relationship to the other major religions, primarily Islam. My following ramblings are heavily inspired by the Speaking Tree column by S G Vombatkere (date unknown) which sits pasted on my wall near my study desk.
For me, however cliched it might sound, Hinduism is a way of life. The Hindu way of life appeals to me because it gives me the freedom to think and act. It does not, most importantly, bind me to rigid codes but only requires that I try and follow certain basic tenets i.e.two parts of the eight fold ashtanga yoga that require me to be a good member of the society I live in. Hindu philosophy admits the atheists and the worshipper of the formless god. I pray sporadically to the extent that I light an agarbatti to a plethora of pictures and idols. Yet, I am a Hindu. The fact that makes me most proud of my religion is that the Hindu accepts all other ways – Buddhist, Jain, Christian, Muslim, Sikh – as valid. Hinduism is the only religion one cannot convert to. To be a Hindu, you have to be born one – in a Hindu home. Nor is anyone converted to Hinduism under the guise of relief, promises of equality or financial aid.
The much-maligned caste system is merely a social construct that depends on the work an individual performs to earn a livelihood. I am virtually a mix of all castes and my being born a Somavanshiya does not give me hereditary claim to the Kshatriya caste. I am a brahmin because I use my knowledge and intelligence to earn a living. I am also a kshatriya because I was in the NCC (being in the armed forces is more appropriate though). I save money regularly and invest wisely that makes me a vaishya and I personally clean my toilets and carry out the garbage; that makes me a Shudra too. The general interpretation of the present class struggle in the Indian society is highly skewed by the political and uppity social class to its advantage. Of course, the historical societal discrimination cannot be ignored but it stems more from the orthodoxy of the society than from the religion.
I meet with Hindus and non-Hindus. None of this makes me less a Hindu, just as my worshiping in a temple regularly will not make me a better Hindu. Tolerance and non-violence are my guiding principles, but don’t misinterpret them as cowardice or meekness. Hindu philosophy tells me that faith in God and whether and how to worship is a matter of belief that is personal and private. I cannot change my neighbor’s belief just as I cannot change even my children’s beliefs. All I can do is to influence their thinking if I think the issue is important enough.
I don’t allow God or religion to intrude into interpersonal and social matters, as it only leads to discord and conflict. Religion for me, is a personal matter. Hindu philosophy is one of peace for the individual and society. All said and done, nothing works if we let personal misguided judgments affect our basic way of life. Every religion preaches peace and should never attempt to supersede other religion. Peace be to all.
Update: This post was written a while back. I’ve renounced all religions and am an atheist now. Unless I can prove beyond reasonable doubt that god exists, I shall remain so. But I still believe that Hinduism is miles ahead of other monotheistic religions that compel you to follow diktats.